COOKE CITY — Avalanche forecasters trigger an avalanche: Even if you’re an expert, you can never be too safe in the backcountry. It’s something two avalanche forecasters learned firsthand last week after they triggered a slide near Cooke City.
Last Friday two Forest Service avalanche forecasters from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center had a close call on Fisher Mountain.
“It’s incredibly terrifying,” said the director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, Doug Chabot, on Wednesday.
The two forecasters had snowmobiled to an area on the mountain to dig some snow pits. “One of them rode and then the second person came, and when the second person was coming, he triggered the avalanche from below,” said Chabot.
The second rider was below the slope. “And he was able to propagate this fracture up the hill, which then caught him. Luckily the other guy, the first guy, he was safe,” Chabot said.
The first rider called for help on the radio and then rushed down to his colleague.
“And luckily he wasn’t buried. He had snow up to his thighs, but it was a really close call because it was a big avalanche,” said Chabot.
They were able to dig out the rider and his snowmobile, and thankfully no one was hurt but it’s a reminder that there are no rules when it comes to Mother Nature.
“December and January can be quite bad for avalanches in Montana. And the reason for that is, is we’re forming many weak layers in the snowpack right now,” Chabot said.
Chabot said the snowpack is relatively thin, usually only two to three feet thick in most places. Thin snowpacks can change really fast. At some point, the weak layer may break and that’s what triggers avalanches.
“But the ones that kill people in the United States are overwhelmingly, either the victim or someone in their party triggered the avalanche,” said Chabot. Like these guys.
Dec 15, 2022